As we continue to expand upon the people and places appearing in the new “Ghosts of West Temple” online exhibit, this week we focus on businessman P.H. Lannan.
We recently featured a piece on Henry H. Lawrence, one of the owners of the Tribune Building (aka the Commerce Building) on the corner of Second South and West Temple. In 1901 he and the other owners sold the building to P.H. Lannan for around $90,000.
P. H. Lannan was born in Ireland in 1839 and immigrated to the United States sometime before 1870, setting up businesses in at least a couple of states before coming to Utah. His first appearance in Utah newspapers details the fight over the location of his butcher shop. When he first came to Utah, all butchers were relegated to the central market on First South and Main Street, as it was illegal for butchers to do business anywhere else. Lannan must not have liked this law because he opened a shop farther down on Main Street. He was arrested and fined, but upon his release he immediately opened up another shop also outside of the central market and was arrested again. This pattern repeated itself several more times and he appealed his cases and the law was finally changed. According to a newspaper outside of Utah the trouble he experienced was because he was a “gentile,” meaning a non-Mormon. The Truckee Rep. (possibly the Truckee Republican, a Californian paper) reported “his business interfered with Zion’s Co-operative Association, and the Mormons ordered him to cease that kind of business. Lannan, believing Salt Lake to be in the United States of America, refused to entertain such an order. For refusing to obey Brigham Young & Co., he was served with no less than seventeen warrants and covered with fines until he could hardly ‘see out.’” The Deseret News begged to differ and the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers offered another explanation – that is, it was a matter of location not religion that was at the heart of the matter. It was likely some combination of the two.
In addition to his work in the meat industry, Lannan purchased real estate, most notably the Commerce Building. He rented out portions of the building to various businesses, but he also opened a hotel there in 1904, the St. Nicholas Hotel. You can see a picture of the building around that time on the newly expanded Ghosts of West Temple exhibit. It was on the corner of West Temple and Second South.
Lannan also held an interest in (and managed) the Salt Lake Tribune which he bought from George W. Reed in 1882. Lannan sold his interest in 1901 around the same time that he purchased the Commerce Building.
Lannan became a favorite target of the Salt Lake Herald and the Deseret News, which often poked fun at his weight. One article in 1876 implied that he was as big as a horse, reporting, “There is a very generally expressed desire in this city to have Centennial Policeman P.H. Lannan appear in his uniform… We suggest that he exhibit himself in his new harness on the stage of the theatre some evening this week.”
Lannan received positive press too. The Salt Lake Tribune detailed an “anti-state meeting,” explaining the members were opposed to Utah being run as a theocracy (recent blog subject H. W. Lawrence was also involved in this movement). This article reported that Pat Lannan was voted one of the Vice Presidents of the committee and noted, “by the way the audience shouted for [him] … it is evident that our friend Pat is a very popular man and esteemed a good worker in a political party.” He was involved in politics, running for different offices or petitioning for territorial posts before Utah became a state.
Lannan played an important role in states outside of Utah as well. He was a member of the Idaho Irrigation and Colonization Company, “which built the first irrigation canal from the Boise river toward the Snake river. This project developed a large section of Idaho.” He also traveled to Chicago to secure a prime location for an exhibit on the Utah Territory during the World’s Fair of 1893. The statue of Brigham Young which now sits atop the Pioneer Monument in Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City was first on exhibit during the World’s Fair. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Lannan also contributed to the fund to build the monument.
Lannan’s mother died in January 1898. Her obituary mentions that Lannan was with her at the time of her death. The Salt Lake Herald reported that Mrs. Julia Lannan was “a highly respected lady and left a life record filled with good deeds.” Lannan was one of her three children; she had another son, Martin, who was also a businessman, and a daughter who was a nun in Maryland.
Lannan passed away in Los Angeles on November 6, 1925 and left a large estate which was divided between his surviving family members. In the last decades of his life his appearance in Utah newspapers diminished, but the Salt Lake Telegram noted, “P.H. Lannan, better known as ‘the Bishop,’ can be found most any evening seated in front of the big fireplace in the [Jonathan] club headquarters surrounded by a coterie of admiring friends. Although Mr. Lannan has rounded his eighty-first birthday, he is very apt at story telling and it is considered a real treat to be one of his listeners.”
Entry contributed by Dr. Michaele Smith, Archivist, Salt Lake County Archives.
Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Tales of a Triumphant People: A History of Salt Lake County, Utah 1847-1900, (Utah: Daughters of Utah Pioneers; 2nd Edition, 1995), 296-298.